DESTINATION: FT. LAUDERDALE
Sometimes access makes all the difference, it makes it easier for you to enjoy the time set aside for the task at hand. Golf. Ft. Lauderdale may not be the first place that comes to mind for golf - it's usually spring break, the beach or partying - but why not throw golf into that mix. The huge airport, nearby to many cool courses, will have you ready to tee it up within an hour of landing.
What we're saying is, you should head south and spend the weekend (or 4 years in Optometry school as it were) and see what else this area has to offer.
We had the chance to do just that in the month of January (2019), but found the values to be tremendous and the conditions excellent. Here's what we hit while in town - learn why should do the same if given the chance...
This course is the epitome of underrated. If TPC Sawgrass and The Old Course at St. Andrews had a baby, Plantation Preserve would be it. Think railroad ties, double greens, pot bunkers, water and undulating fairways.
Glad I have your attention.
I played this course for the first time late in 2006, a few months after it opened, and it immediately vaulted into my Top Five. We’re now fourteen years on and it has not moved. It’s going to take a serious contender to replace it and I’ll tell you why.
Bunkers...although this place is not one large sand trap, it uses its bunkers extremely well and with over thirty pot bunkers, by my count, you may see one while out there. And everyone of them seems to be in the right place (or wrong place depending on your sand game). The first hole, 589 from the tips, kinda sets the tone for the day being a dogleg right with water and 9 traps left and then OB along the range to the right. There is actually a lot of space in between the hazards but the placement of the bunkers really feels like you’re being squeezed around and you’re instantly uncomfortable.
It’s perfect...get used to it. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am a glutton for golf punishment. I love forced carries, split fairways and nasty bunkers. This is my Graceland.
vonHagge, Smelek & Baril made a beast here and I wish there was more info on who actually pulled the trigger on its design. My guess is vonHagge based on the French course last year for the Ryder Cup and having played The Ridge Club on Cape Cod. There are a few similar themes but I think this takes the cake. Play here.
Oh, did I mention they have a super twilight after 3:00pm year round that lets you out for just $45? The top of the top rate this course has (out-of-state, peak season, peak time) is just $99. Chances are excellent you're paying less than that.
The Cradle (of Pinehurst Resort fame) this is not. However it is only $9 to spin 18 here, $6 for a single pass through its nine holes. That point should really temper your expectations and make you realize what a great value this is. Golf can be annoyingly expensive and seen as a rich man’s game. Places like this exist to prove that point wrong.
Lauderhill doesn’t have perfect fit and finish, but few places do. What it does have - that many don’t - is access to anyone. This facility is perfect for the first timer, the veteran and the scratch golfer alike. Golf snobs will turn up their noses at the greens because of the pace and appearance but those dopes won’t be appeased by most ‘good’ greens anyway. What this place represents is an idea that golf can be fun, cheap and a bit messy at times. ‘Fun’ being the key term.
A friend recently went to a posh bar in a hotel and was charged over $15 for one drink. Tack on the tip and they spent the equivalent of thirty-six holes at Lauderhill.
Tell me which expenditure would incur the most amusement?
Golf is hard, especially on a big course. Many times people play the wrong tees and end up hating their afternoon because they made a Roy McAvoyian twelve on the #1 handicap hole. At Lauderhill, most anyone can make a good number out there. The shortest hole is around 50 yards. Lots of people can come close to making a par there.
That’s fun. That’s the point.
Success in golf is enticing...almost addicting. Why not play an easy course and build confidence the entire time? We wish more of this breed of course existed. We think it would bring more people to the game and make it more fun. Top Golf is taking off...why not a cheap little Par 3 Course? It can give you a better chance at making numbers seen on TV by the pros. Most golfers struggle to make par on a long course, on a Par 3 course that likelihood increases dramatically...and so do your chances of a hole-in-one! Play here.
It’s fun to play a course that once held a PGA tournament (it did so under the 'TPC' banner, but is now part of the ClubLink network). However, it’s not fun to realize just how much better the pros are at golf. Eagle Trace gives you the opportunity to make both of those statements a reality.
This course, in the Coral Springs area, is a fun track but it’s not for the faint of heart. Water comes into play quite a bit, like fourteen holes quite a bit. Think ‘water left’ on the front and ‘water right’ on the back. Forced carries, pseudo-island greens and railroad ties start to make themselves known throughout the front nine but I think the back nine is where this course shines brightest.
The stretch run to the clubhouse (holes #15 through #18, specifically) are not only beautiful, with large open views full of water and wide fairways, but they are also Eagle Trace's toughest - culminating in a 470+ yard par four finisher. I wish I could have seen the scene on Sunday when The Honda Classic was still being held there. The stadium seating full of spectators surrounding 18 would have been magical.
For now you’ll just have to imagine what that would have looked and sounded like because those seats tend to be empty when it’s just you and your friends missing 4-footers for 96.
Eagle Trace's rates jump around a bit - but don't expect to break the bank. $99 weekday out-of-state rates are common, yet twilight starts drop to $59 or even $39 if you're willing to sleep in. All of this for a former Tour stop!?! With the aforementioned beaches and parties, we think you can fill time.
Ultimately where you go for your golf trip depends on weather, price and prestige. We just wanted to make the case for a Ft. Lauderdale area golf trip. It may not be listed by any top magazines but it makes for a great time, has great access and there is some very fun golf to be had.
Wishing you a happy golf trip in 2020,
Enjoy some more of the best from our trip!
Plantation Preserve - Plantation, FL
Eagle Trace - Coral Springs, FL